Ok, it’s really aerial photography with a lean application. And, it’s not that aerial. Just a guy standing on a big step ladder and taking a picture of stuff below. Yes, there’s a fancy camera in his right hand.

So, where’s the lean in this?

Good question.

When I first saw the ladder in the kaizen team’s breakout room, I was a bit perplexed. But, as it turns out, there was a good reason for the ladder. Actually, it’s pretty cool.

Many of us have participated in the design of future state layouts. This often employs two-dimensional scale models as a team seeks layouts that, among other things, facilitate better flow of product, people, information, tooling, scrap, etc., the use of less floor space, improved visual control, etc.

In an effort to generate multiple ideas and options and converge on the best one, many teams create a number of different alternative designs (think of the popular application of the 7 ways or 7 alternatives). These alternatives are then scored by the team against pre-established, weighted criteria.

Well, creating 7 or so different two-dimensional models can be time AND space consuming. The activity involves materials such as cardboard, plywood, paper cut-outs, sheet metal, magnets, yarn, and so on.

Enter the aerial photographer.

The folks with the ladder had a brilliant idea. After each iteration or alternative design, the designated photographer climbed the ladder and snapped a photo of the layout. (You need a pretty decent camera, by the way.) This way they quickly recorded and printed out the layout and then rapidly proceeded to the next design using the same materials.

More iterations. More ideas. More interaction. More learning. Better output.

Related posts: Lean Space – Some Thoughts and 10 Questions, Without Defined Criteria, (Almost) Everything Looks Good, Ready! Fire! Aim!…Maybe, We Should Have REALLY Simulated First!?